Five Great Summer Veggies

June 23, 2011

veggies Summer is a great time for veggie and fruit lovers! We all know that the fresher the vegetable, the higher in nutrient content and better the flavor. In fact, the longer veggies are able to ripen naturally in the field, the higher their nutrient content, and fuller their flavor.  Produce that is shipped long distances is picked before it is ripe. For instance, tomatoes are picked when green and ripened with a gas to give them a red color, affecting nutrient content and taste. Let's take a look at five vegetables that local producers will be delivering soon!
  • Chard: An excellent source of vitamins C, E, beta-carotene and the minerals manganese and zinc, chard also offers a great variety of antioxidants. Phytonutrient antioxidants in chard also act as anti-inflammatory agents and can lower risk of chronic inflammation.  Multiple studies on animals have shown that chard also benefits blood sugar regulation and may offer special benefits for individuals diagnosed with diabetes. Fresh chard is available a few weeks after the first frost and is harvested through fall!  Include it in your salads in the summer and use as a savory addition to your lentil soups throughout the fall months!
  • Cucumbers: Can we talk about summer vegetables without mentioning cucumbers?  Cucumbers are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables, and are believed to have originated in  India. It’s high water content makes it a refreshing addition to summer menus. It is a very good source of potassium, a heart-friendly electrolyte that helps reduce blood pressure and heart rates by countering effects of sodium. Cucumbers also have a high amount of vitamin K, which promotes the building of bone mass. Vitamin K is also used in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease patients as it limits neuronal damage to the brain.  Add cucumbers raw to freshen up salads, sandwiches, soups or dips. Garden-fresh cucumbers are available from mid-June through summer.
  • Hot Peppers: Capsaicin is the active ingredient in peppers that produces the burning sensation. It also stimulates the release of endorphins, natural pain killers that promote a sense of well being. No wonder we love hot peppers!  Red peppers offer relief for rheumatoid arthritis, while cayenne peppers bring down blood sugar levels, lowers cholesterol, prevents blood clots, and are used in folk medicine for cold and flu miseriess. Add to cold summer soups and salsas!
  • Mushrooms: Keep an eye out for chanterelle and porcini mushrooms in the summer. Low in sodium with high levels of fiber and riboflavin, niacin, potassium and riboflavin, mushrooms are an excellent way to add flavor and bulk to dishes without adding calories. Fresh mushrooms should be dry and firm. Serve raw, add to salads or sautée, grill or broil.
  • Shallots: Shallots are the overachievers of the onion family. They're highly efficient at helping with the elimination toxins from the body and have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergic properties. They are also associated with lower risks for cancers affecting the liver and colon, and offer protection against heart disease and diabetes. Shallots are high in vitamin C, potassium, fiber, folic acid, calcium, and iron. They have a slightly sweeter flavor than onions, and are great for cooking... you can just add the greens, also known as scallions as a tasty garnish on fish or vegetarian dishes.
It's the best time of year for fresh fruit and vegetables ... take advantage of the opportunity to try some new fresh flavors!  

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